Mycoplasmas are tiny bacteria that cause a number of diseases of the urogenital tract and the respiratory tract in humans. Some of them live peacefully on the genital mucous membranes without us noticing. However, mycoplasmas sometimes cause diseases - mycoplasma infections.
Mycoplasmas are the smallest and simplest known organisms that multiply themselves. Unlike the other bacteria, they have only a thin membrane instead of the cell wall. The class to which they belong is therefore also known as mollicutes ("softskin"). They depend on host organisms.
Their tiny size, simplicity and lack of cell wall and deformability make them ideal for their parasite existence and allow them to be attached tightly to the membranes of the host cells, but also to be mobile if necessary by sliding movements. These survival mechanisms seem to be very effective - the Mollicutes are estimated to be already 65 million years old.
Human-relevant pathogens are Mycoplasma hominis and Ureaplasma urealyticum for urogenital infections and Mycoplasma pneumoniae for atypical pneumonia. While the latter germ is always disease-causing, the other two are so-called commensals, that is, they usually live on their host without harming it. Sometimes, however, they trigger a local inflammation, especially
- the urethra (urethritis),
- but also the prostate,
- of the renal pelvis,
- the vagina or uterus.
Also progressing infections with fever and general symptoms can occur and even for joint inflammations eg the Reiter syndrome the pathogens (eg Ureaplasma urealyticum) seem to be responsible. The cause is probably a diminished local or general weakness of the immune defense eg in the context of antibiotic therapy, cancer or after surgery or childbirth.
Mycoplasma infection sexually transmitted
Mycoplasma infections belong to the sexually transmitted diseases, so are passed on during sexual intercourse. In addition, more than 50% of Ureaplasma urealyticum are transmitted to the child during pregnancy or childbirth. Possible consequences include low birth weight, premature birth, and respiratory and meningeal infections of the newborn. Whether mycoplasmas can also be blamed for miscarriages and infertility is controversial.
Whether and how many mycoplasmas settle on the genital mucous membranes depends greatly on the sexual activity and the number of sexual partners. They are found in up to three-quarters of women and up to 45% of men with frequent sexual intercourse. In the course of life, most of them seem to have come into contact with the germs - in nearly 95% of middle-aged people, antibodies to mycoplasmas are detectable in the blood.
Mycoplasma infection: symptoms and signs
The complaints are usually low and uncharacteristic. They depend on where the inflammation takes place (vagina, bladder, ureter, prostate, kidneys, renal pelvis, fallopian tubes, ovaries). Most common symptoms include increased urination, urinary distress and burning sensation, yellow urethritis, and kidney pain (pyelonephritis).
Mycoplasma: therapy and detection
Since mycoplasma also occur in many healthy people, it is not always easy to determine whether they really are the cause of the disease. If Ureaplasma urealyticum is detected in the child, this may be an indication of sexual abuse. The germs can be detected by culturing on nutrient media. Urine, ejaculate, prostatic fluid or a urethra swab is used as a test material, while urine or swabs from the vagina, cervix or urethra are used by the man, while in pregnant women also amniotic fluid or swabs of the egg skin are used.
The result is available after 6 days at the latest. Treatment is for symptoms of illness with antibiotics. However, not all are suitable because agents such as penicillin attack the cell walls. Since mycoplasma do not have any, it is necessary to resort to therapeutics with other mechanisms of action (eg erythromycin). To avoid re-infection, the sexual partners should be co-treated, even if they have no complaints.
- Mycoplasma hominis and Ureaplasma urealyticum also colonize the genital mucous membranes in healthy individuals.
- Mycoplasma hominis and Ureaplasma urealyticum can trigger inflammation of the genitourinary tract.
- Infection occurs through unprotected sexual intercourse or during pregnancy from mother to child.
- Therapy takes place in case of disease symptoms with antibiotics.
- The sexual partners should be treated.